Sakeena Fanga has first-hand experience of the impact drugs can have on a family.
Her brother was a drug addict, and she has dedicated her life to raising awareness about drug use, and helping those who find themselves in the grip of addiction.
Now she is calling on the community to stand against drugs.
“I wish people would realise the danger of drugs to our societies. My brother started smoking drugs at the age of 14 years old until last year when he was 25 years old,” said Ms Fanga, who is the manager at the Beulah Welfare Outreach Centre, in Rocklands.
“Some children are smoking drugs because of peer pressure or to get through family problems. Some parents smoke in front of children, whereas they should be an example but they send the wrong message. This is a serious matter that is destroying our communities and it needs a special attention,” she said.
“Drugs are all over the place. You find that children at of the age of 13 are already into drugs. Out of 10 children under the age of 13, about six of them use drugs,” said Ms Fanga, who described drug use as an epidemic.
”Every household has a problem. We see these things and how a person looks when he or she is on drugs. So a drug addict, to support his habit, has to steal or rob people,” she explained, adding that she also became a victim of robbery by the criminals.
“Three months ago my car was vandalised by the criminals because they wanted tik,” explained Ms Fanga.
She said the use of drugs has a major impact on teenage pregnancy and crime levels.
“Young ladies see these men wearing nice clothes. They are tempted and end up sleeping with them and get pregnant.
“After the baby is born, the man doesn’t want to support the child and the girl starts smoking because she wants to calm her nerves,” she said.
Ms Fanga said they have a database of people who need help.
“More than a hundred people came to us in need help. We refer them to the local rehabilitation centres and also refer their families for counselling to be able to know how to deal with them (drug addicts),” she explained.
Shuaib Hoosain from Sultan Bahu Centre in Westridge said there were various reasons people turned to drugs.
“Some people use it to experiment, based on curiosity raised by reports of what their peers experienced when they used substances. Some people misuse substances to cope with stress and other psychological factors.”
While Mr Hoosain was not able to cite statistics relating to the number of drug users or abuses in Mitchell’s Plain, he said statistics provided by the South African Police Service indicated that almost 80 percent of all their arrests were drug-related.
This, he added, was the case every year and the situation had earned Mitchell’s Plain the unofficial title of drug capital of South Africa.
Mr Hoosain said, based on screening carried out on clients accessing treatment services, most users report that they started using substances in early adolescence, around the age of 12.
He urged parents not to overlook small behavioural changes which often present themselves when people start using drugs.
He said it was vital to educate children on the pitfalls of using substances through open dialogue rather than adopting a confrontational stance.
“Stimulants such as methamphetamine (tik) increase heart rate, blood pressure and other autonomic nervous system responses. Excessive stimulant use can also lead to substance induce psychosis and lower inhibition,” he said.
Clinical psychologist at the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, Cathy Karasellos, said most people who come to them for help, are using tik, dagga, heroin and alcohol.
“Most of our clients are aged in their teens and 20s, but often start experimenting in their early teens or before,” she said.
Ms Karasellos said about 80 percent of their clients are men.
“At CTDCC anyone with a drug problem is welcome, our only exclusion being those with pending court cases who can access our service once the case is completed,” she explained.
Clarence Trouncell, treasurer of the Ministry of Youth, which works with Beulah Welfare Outreach Centre to alleviate crime and substance abuse in the area, said: “Out of 500 houses and 12 streets in our area, we ensure that there is no shebeen or drug dealer.
“We work closely with the community members. If there is anyone selling liquor or drugs we go to him and ask him nicely to stop doing it and if he resists, we call the police,” he said.
Mrs Fanga said anyone who needs help can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org